Is the Republican Party Committing Suicide?

It’s been an interesting few hours.

In a truly wild and dizzying Friday night and Saturday morning in Washington, Senate Republicans committed collective political suicide by passing a deeply detested tax bill they were still writing seemingly moments before they jammed it through on a party-line vote with no hearings and no meaningful input from a public that hasn’t even seen the text of the legislation.

The thing has been revised so many times it may take a few days to sort out what’s in it. Since there are still significant differences between the Senate and House bills there’s still a slim chance it will die in reconciliation, but it seems the entire GOP is in a what the hell let’s set our hair on fire and see what happens mood. I think it’s going to get done, unfortunately.

Whatever adjustments Republicans made to pass the bill, the basics of this atrocity are pretty straightforward: It will permanently slash the corporate tax rate, even though American companies are swimming in record rivulets of cash profits. That rate may go up over time to satisfy the deficit hawks, but it will ultimately end up at a much lower endpoint than it’s at today. The bill will eliminate the inheritance tax, allowing denizens of Richistan to reproduce the Trump family dynamic of billionaire thieves passing their ill-gotten largesse in gigantic lump sums to their own shiftless children. To pay for this pointless handout to people with third homes in Jackson Hole, Republicans also eliminated or reduced a series of popular tax deductions and incentives almost exclusively for people that voted against them. The tax code has been weaponized.

And of course, Senate Republicans included a gratuitous repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, something that will save the government billions by ultimately pushing about 13 million people out of the insurance market altogether and will spike premiums for everyone else in the exchange markets. The whole sordid thing will add roughly $1 trillion or more to the deficit over the next decade, according to the Fake News Congressional Budget Office and the Failing Non-Partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. I could bore you with a thousand quotes from GOP leaders during the Obama administration about how the national debt is the dingo that will eat your baby for breakfast, the demon that will possess your grandchildren and rob them of their prosperity, but do I really have to? All you need to know is that if these Republicans saw a balanced budget drowning in an icy river, they would whistle while they walked right by it. They literally never cared.

The only thing that might save the Republican Party is the inability of Democrats to make a big enough noise about this monster.

But 2018 is likely to be an interesting election year. If the tax bill is signed into law, sooner or later the American people will notice how it is impacting their lives. People will lose health care and see premiums go up.

And in 2019, as folks are preparing their 2018 taxes, a lot of them are going to notice that their taxes actually went up.

Meanwhile, Trump is going to have to fight to keep is job. At Vanity Fair, T.A. Frank has an interesting theory on what might happen next:

Now we get to the main point, which is that passage of this bill marks the end of Trump’s presidency. Trump (along with his supporters) seems to feel that triumphing on taxes will give him the momentum to move onto other great things. It won’t. It will offer Republicans the chance to abandon him. More than anything, this piece of legislation is what Republicans needed from the president. Trump has been a building fire that Republicans wouldn’t put out because they needed it to light their cigars. But now the G.O.P. has got what it wanted. It can puff and move along.

Trump might think what comes next is his wall or maybe even—who knows how much he dreams?—an infrastructure bill. These won’t happen. His leverage with his party will be spent. Even minor reforms to immigration policy are unlikely to happen. Trump is reportedly set to appoint Tom Cotton, the lone immigration wonk among Republicans in the Senate, to the C.I.A., where Cotton will abandon domestic legislation in favor of foreign-threat assessments. With his reputation for hawkishness, Cotton will, as the joke goes, fill a much-needed void.

With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, nothing is brash or loud. He won’t denounce Trump in fiery orations. We’ll just notice that Trump’s enemies seem to be having easier time circling in on him. The car that was parked in the path of the fire truck yesterday will have moved mysteriously to the side. McConnell will clear his throat and look the other way as Trump’s foes charge through. Trump might have no choice but to push through this bill, and he no doubt likes what it does. But tax cuts were also Trump’s bargaining chip in dealing with the G.O.P. He’s about to let that chip go, just as the G.O.P. is about to let Trump go.

If it were all up to the Senate, I’d agree. But bills of impeachment must originate in the House, and I don’t think Republicans in the House are there yet. But that could change now that the Mueller investigation is tightening the noose. If House Republicans decide Trump is a liability as the midterms approach, all bets are off.

The tax bill is a horror that will damage a lot of people, not to mention the the nation. But maybe, like Prohibition, the GOP’s obsession with tax cuts may be something that won’t go away until it goes into effect and utterly fails.

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